B.C. has revised its policy for essential visitors to hospitals and long-term care homes to make it clear that people with disabilities still need access to vital supports.
On Tuesday, Health Minister Adrian Dix acknowledged that many disabled people have been afraid to access health care during the COVID-19 pandemic, when only essential visitors have been allowed in hospitals and long-term care.
He said the province has now amended the visitor policy to make sure health-care providers give special consideration to designated representatives who help people with disabilities eat, communicate, get around and make decisions.
“They’re significant changes for people and they came at the concern and the request of people in the disability community so that they would have the confidence to visit hospitals,” Dix said.
Before now, essential visitors have been mainly limited to end-of-life reasons and visits to provide specific types of care, Dix added.
The changes come after outcry from disabled people and advocates about the death of 40-year-old Ariis Knight at Peace Arch Hospital.
Knight, who had cerebral palsy, died of a respiratory illness on April 18, a few days after she was transferred to the hospital from the group home in South Surrey where she had lived for a decade.
Knight could not speak and depended on caregivers and family members to communicate. Because of visitor restrictions, none of Knight’s caregivers or family members were allowed to be with her in the hospital, and she died alone.
People with disabilities have said they’re afraid to go to the hospital because they worry about whether their support people will be allowed inside with them.